Worlds kick off with super-combi, Mikaela Shiffrin
Here we go
Editor’s note: Weather in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, has forced a schedule change for the first day of world championships on Monday. The order of the two-run race will be flipped — the slalom leg will now precede the super-G leg. The slalom is scheduled for 3 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, and the super-G is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. MST. This story has been edited to reflect the changes.
Welcome to Cortina (virtually) and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
First off, let’s thank everything that is holy that the championships are not here. Covering worlds in person is a once-in-a-lifetime that the author has had the privilege of doing twice — Vail 1999 and Beaver Creek 2015. We are happy to observe this festival of sporting excellence from a distance of 5,376 miles, according to random Google search, thank you.
Mikaela Shiffrin will be busier than expected during the first week of worlds. She’s running in the super-combined Monday and the super-G on Tuesday.
Program your coffee makers, people. All times are Mountain.
• Monday morning: The slalom of the combined is at 3 a.m.on the Olympic Channel. The super-G portion is on NBCSN at 6:30 a.m.
• Tuesday: The women’s super-G is at 2:30 a.m. on NBCSN. The men follow at 5 a.m., also on NBCSN.
For those with Internet screens, Peacock Premium will be streaming everything at the aforementioned times.
Officially, this is a super-G and a slalom. Were this an old school combined: a downhill and two slaloms, we’d take Mikaela. Were this year to contain an semblance of normality, we would take Mikaela in a heartbeat. Had she entered this event during 2019 in Are, Sweden, she would have won it.
We’ve already opined about how this may not be the world champs that everyone wants for Shiffrin. With regard to the speed events, she just hasn’t been able to train much because of COVID. She also just passed the first anniversary of her father’s death, which has been a terribly difficult process.
That said, how surprised would anybody be if she did win today? As much as we have an idea with what Shiffrin is dealing personally, it’s not a huge leap. We’ve seen her do just ridiculously wonderful things before.
The key to the combined is always tech — be it giant slalom or slalom. Ergo, watch the slalom. Like George W. Bush, it is the decider.
If Shiffrin is in today’s race to win it — an alternate theory is that the combi super-G is serving as a training run for her and a lot of other competitors as the women race the stand-alone super-G on Tuesday — check how far behind she is after the morning.
If Shiffrin’s within 1 second, look out. If she’s 1-2 seconds out, she is definitely in the hunt. A margin of 1-2 seconds may seem like a lot, but if the leader is a speed specialist, said front-runner generally always falls back to the pack — usually in comic fashion.
Again, tech racers win the combined, and in this combined, it’s all about the slalom.
As such, in addition to Shiffrin, keep your eye on Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, Shiffrin’s major rival of the last two years, Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin, the 2018 Olympic combined winner, and Wendy Holdener, the 2019 world champion.
As we all know, Shiffrin is your defending champion in the super-G from Are in 2019. Again, we want to will this to happen.
It is worth noting that Shiffrin has four World Cup wins in super-G and one of them happens to be in Cortina back in 2019 during a regular World Cup stop. What’s more, as Shiffrin has expanded into speed events from her tech base, Cortina is one of the sites on tour upon which she concentrates, along with Lake Louise, Alberta, and St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Yes, Shiffrin won a World Cup super-G for the first time in Lake Louise. Her first top 10 in a super-G was fourth place … in Cortina in 2017.
Again, since this will only be Shiffrin’s second super-G in a little more than a year — the first one coming the day before in the combi — let’s see how she does.
Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami is the lady to beat on Tuesday. She’s won four super-Gs this year and she’s skiing terrifically in downhill and GS as well. Swtizerland’s Corinne Suter, Austria’s Tamara Tippler, the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka and Italy’s Federica Brignone are also in the mix.